The time has come to look forwards. We may not know precisely when, but at some point we will be travelling again. So, we thought it would be nice to drool over some amazing travel images of epic railway journeys around the world. The information, from travel bloggers who have experienced the journey, is invaluable too. I don’t know about you, but I want to travel on every one of these suggestions!
Flåm Railway in Norway
One of the most scenic train journeys in the world that you can take is the Flåm Railway in Norway. Among Norway’s most popular attractions, the scenic train ride definitely warrants a top spot on your itinerary for Scandinavia.
The journey is not long: about one hour. It starts at the Flam station at Aurlandsfjord (a tributary of the Sognefjord) and goes up to the Myrdal station in the mountains of Norway. In that one hour, the train climbs almost 1,000 feet, making it one of the steepest standard gauge lines on the planet.
Along the route, you’ll be able to marvel at the spectacular scenery of the Norwegian countryside, including several waterfalls as they cascade down mountains. In fact, the train even makes a stop at a waterfall en route so you can get down and take photos.
If you are planning a visit to Norway, be sure to check out this awesome train ride.
Submitted by Dhara, It’s Not About the Miles
Belgrade, Serbia to Bar, Montenegro
The railway line from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia to the seaside town Bar in Montenegro is considered to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in Europe yet it seems to be not so popular among tourists. There are two daily trains connecting Belgrade and Bar, a day and a night one. The trip takes 11 hours (but delays are often) and in that time you will cover almost 500 kilometers. You will also pass 254 tunnels (each of them is marked with the number so it’s easy to follow) and 435 bridges. The most popular one is Mala Rijeka viaduct, near Podgorica (the capital of Montenegro). Until recently it was the highest railway bridge in the world, it is 200 meters high and almost 500 meters long.
During your journey, you will pass some amazing landscapes, such as stunning mountains or Skadar Lake – the largest lake in the Balkans. Most of those views are in Montenegro so depending on the direction you are going, it’s better to take either a day train (if traveling to Serbia) or a night train (on the way to Montenegro). When planning a trip to the Balkans don’t miss Belgrade to Bar train!
Submitted by Kami, Kami and the Rest of the World
Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu
I believe the incredible and mysterious Machu Picchu is on everybody’s travel bucket list. The best time to visit Machu Picchu is from April to October when you could enjoy drier weather for a breathtaking hike and the best view of the Inca ruins in front of the Huayna Picchu.
Except you decided to reach Machu Picchu via the historic Inca Trail 4-day Trek (and visitor numbers are limited), most visitors set off their pilgrimage from Cusco by train. If you are only staying in Cusco for a couple of days, be prepared and book a ticket in advance because the train tickets sold out rather easily.
Our scenic excursion to Machu Picchu once the train left the train station – the route runs through the Sacred Valley, one of the most beautiful regions in the country. The valley is the most fertile land in the ancient Inca Empire that belonged to Inca Emperor. Today, visitors could still see beautiful crop fields, rugged rocks, and mountains, and even some Inca heritage sites through the big windows of the train cars, making it one of the most epic railway journeys in the world.
Submitted by Kenny, Knycx Journeying
The coast-to-coast train journeys across Canada is the very definition of epic – if you were to take it non-stop, you would be on the train for more than four and a half days. However, there are many places to stop off along the way, so you will need much longer. Starting at Halifax on the east coast, the first major stop is Quebec City, more than 16 hours down the line. There is beautiful architecture and incredible food. Hop back for a short 5-hour hop to Montreal, and enjoy summer festivals, street fairs and great shopping. It’s only 2 hours to Canada’s capital Ottawa, home to one of my favorite museums in the world – the incredibly well-curated Canadian Museum of History.
Another short 4-hour trip takes you to Toronto, from where you can a side trip to Niagara Falls and back. It is then an epic 35 hours across the prairies to Winnipeg, which is the start of a 45-hour (each way) side trip north to Churchill – home to beluga whales in summer and polar bears in the fall. From Winnipeg back on the main line, it’s another 25 hours via Edmonton to Jasper, which sits at the northern of the breath-taking Rocky Mountains. There are two choices from Jasper– southwest via the Rockies to Vancouver (23 hours) or (after a trip down to Banff and back to see the Rockies – you can’t take this trip and miss them!), northwest to Prince Rupert (8.5 hours) where you can take a ferry to Haida Gwaii and do a once-in-a-lifetime kayak trip to see the totem poles at SG̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay (Ninstints). This is truly one of the most incredible rail journeys in the world!
Submitted by James, Travel Collecting
The Glacier Express
Dubbed the slowest fast train in the world, the Glacier Express is a high-speed train travelling through some of Europe’s highest peaks and most rugged terrain. It is quite possibly the most scenic train journey as well where it leaves from the base of the iconic Matterhorn and travels through the tops of the Swiss Alps before reaching the final stop at the famous ski resort of Saint Moritz. It is possible to cover this route year-round (and it’s covered on the Eurail Pass) but we will always recommend winter time when the mountain tops are blanketed in heavy snows. Highlights along the Glacier Express Route includes the highest point at Oberalp Pass, the Rhine Gorge and the beginning of the River Rhine, and the postcard picture of the Landwasser Viaduct which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The full journey is 7-8 hours including a stop roughly halfway at Chur.
Submitted by Allan, Live Less Ordinary
Many people mistakenly refer to this famous train journey across Russia as the Trans-Siberian Railway. But technically, that one heads all the way east across Russia to Vladivostok, which is in the far southeastern corner of this vast country. If you cut south shortly after Lake Baikal, as we did, and continue on to Mongolia, then you have completed the Trans-Mongolian Railway. My husband and I started in St. Petersburg, Russia and finished in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.
Since the standard Russian tourist visa is only valid for 30 days, we had to choose carefully which stops we would make along the way. After careful consideration, we chose Moscow, the Golden Ring towns of Suzdal and Vladmir, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk and Ulan Ude. Our longest stretch on the train at one time was from Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk, which took 53 hours.
We chose platskartny class whenever possible, which is a third-class sleeper bunk. I enjoyed traveling this way, as it offers lots of opportunities to interact with the locals. My top tip, though, is to reserve one upper bunk and one lower bunk if you’re traveling with a partner. The upper bunks have very little headroom, so you’re pretty much forced to lie down. On the lower bunks, you can sit up during the day and eat your meals at the small table provided.
Submitted by Wendy, The Nomadic Vegan
Kandy to Ella, Sri Lanka
The train journey from Kandy to Ella in Sri Lanka is considered amongst the most scenic and beautiful in the whole world. The journey stretches for xxx km and goes through rolling hills, beautiful tea plantations and cute mountain towns.
It’s an epic railway journey, but a pretty long one. The journey from Kandy to Ella takes around 7 hours, so make sure you’re ready for it! Street food vendors will come on at most stations selling samosas, fresh fruit and water, but they’re not always regular so bring your own water and snacks.
If you want to avoid doing the whole 7-hour journey standing, you should aim to reserve a seat beforehand. Reserving a seat can be hard as there is no official online booking platform, but if you ask your hotel in Kandy they will usually be able to help. Aim for a third class seat, so that you can be in the final wagon and have the best views with the train all in front of you.
The train goes very slowly in the more winding hill areas or close to towns, which makes it ideal for snapping those iconic Sri Lanka train photos. The bright turquoise train contrasts nicely with the green landscape, and makes it an extremely scenic ride.
Submitted by Greta, Greta’s Travels
The Ghan, Australia
When it comes to the world’s top epic railway journeys, The Ghan is up there with the best of them and is named after the Afghan camel drivers who were brought to Australia to help explore its remote interior.
This monumental train journey will take you from Darwin at the north-end of Australia all the way to Adelaide in the south of the country over the course of three days.
Lacquered teak-walled carriages offer double or single sleeping arrangements, and all come with en-suite bathrooms.
Dining carriages are beautifully styled with tables seating four guests – a sure way of making friends if you are travelling solo or as a couple.
Food onboard is to extremely high-standards and is delicious. All washed down with some rather good Australian wines – what more could you want.
And don’t forget the excursions each day. Nitmiluk Gorge for a trip along the river, Alice Springs to visit the School of the Air and the Telegraph Station and a BBQ finished off with stargazing if weather permits.
The Ghan is truly a “one of a kind” epic railway journey and is worth every penny of its eye-watering cost!
Submitted by Angie, Where Angie Wanders
TranzAlpine Journey, New Zealand
The TranzAlpine is one of the top train journeys in the world and certainly the best in New Zealand. Taking just under five hours, the journey runs from Christchurch on the East Coast of the South Island, to Greymouth on the West Coast.
This journey traverses the Southern Alps and runs through the beautiful Arthurs Pass National Park. The most beautiful time of year to take this railway journey is in the winter. The mountains look stunning covered in snow and there’s something about looking out at winter, while in a snuggly warm carriage.
There are some great stops along the way, including the cute village of Arthurs Pass, where you can take a small hike up to Devils Punchbowl Falls, or Moana to visit the local holiday spot of Lake Brunner. Many use this journey to start their West Coast holiday, exploring the crazy blue waters of the Hokitika Gorge, or the ancient Pancake Rocks.
Submitted by Jennifer, Backyard Travel Family
The Venice Simplon Orient Express
The Orient Express is one of the most famous luxury train journeys in the world. Originally, the route ran across Europe from London to Istanbul, however as planes replaced trains in the 20th century, such a long journey became more of a tourist attraction than a practical means of transport.
Today, it is still possible to ride a version of the Orient Express, known as the Venice Simplon Orient Express. This predominantly runs from London to Venice on a two day, one night journey, aboard lovingly restored original rolling stock. We were thrilled to ride this legendary train ourselves from London to Venice prior to our wedding ceremony.
The experience is truly wonderful. The trains are luxurious, with a choice of three dining cars (serving incredible food!), a bar car, and beautiful sleeping cabins. The views as the train rolls across Europe are spectacular, particularly through the alps. We loved the formality and glamour of the experience, which transported us back to a different age of travel, where the journey really was as important as the destination.
Submitted by Laurence, Finding the Universe
One of the most epic railway journeys to experience in Switzerland is the trip to the Jungfraujoch aboard the Jungfrau train.
The journey consists of a series of connecting regional trains from Interlaken to Kleine Scheidegg via either Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald. As the trains wind their way up the mountain, stunning vistas can be seen from every window. The route travels through alpine pastures and beside waterfalls before arriving at Kleine Scheidegg.
Here, all passengers transfer to the Jungfraubahn for the final leg of the two-hour journey. Before arriving at Europe’s highest railway station (3,454 metres), the train travels through a seven kilometre-long tunnel carved through the mountain. It’s an incredible engineering feat – particularly as the railway line and tunnel were constructed over 100 years ago.
As if the scenery along the route wasn’t beautiful enough, at the summit of Jungfraujoch, referred to as the Top of Europe, stunning views of the Swiss Alps and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Aletsch Glacier await.
You’ll also find plenty of exhibitions and activities to keep you occupied at Jungfraujoch – including a display of ice sculptures, a Lindt chocolate shop, restaurants, and, during the summer, a snow park where you can try snow tubing, sledging or skiing.
Then, it’s back aboard the Jungfraubahn for the scenic journey down the mountain.
Submitted by Carolyn, Holidays to Switzerland
Xining to Lhasa on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway
Catching the train from Xining to Lhasa to reach Tibet is one of Asia’s, and the world’s, most scenic train journeys. This could be debatable, but what is not, it’s that this train ride is certainly the highest in the world. One of China’s engineering marvels, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway travels along parts of the arid Tibetan Plateau that soar above 5000 meters of height — 5072-meters-high Thangula Pass is the highest point of the journey. Don’t worry about altitude sickness, for the staff on board has oxygen tanks available for dizzy passengers.
By all means, in that regard, this 20-odd hours long journey is much better to acclimatize that taking a direct flight to Lhasa from Beijing or Chengdu. And obviously, it’s a much more rewarding and scenic trip: try to catch an evening departure in order to catch a glimpse of the Qinghai Lake before dark. Don’t worry, because the best part of the journey is the 1142 km stretch from Golmud to Lhasa, which you’ll start in the morning of your second day. That’s where the real Tibetan Plateau starts, and where you’ll want to enjoy the views. Don’t forget to watch out of your window for the Cuona or Tsonang lake. Set between the Nyainqentanglha and the Kunlun Mountains at an altitude of 4650 meters, is one of the world’s highest freshwater lakes.
Don’t forget to apply for a Tibet Travel permit before you go: many travel agencies in China can help get this compulsory document, without which foreigners are not allowed to board the train — and even enter the station — in Xining.
Submitted by Marco, Monkey Rock World